Cherie Baldacchino was the first female at Tarong Power Station to complete her electrical apprenticeship. (Photo: Stanwell)
Cherie Baldacchino was the first female at Tarong Power Station to complete her electrical apprenticeship. (Photo: Stanwell)

Female tradie proves strength in smashing gender norms

"A GIRL can't do that."

This is what Cherie Baldacchino's father would cheekily say, knowing his daughter's competitive nature.

These words drove the 22-year-old woman to break gender norms and become the first female at Tarong Power Station to complete her electrical apprenticeship.

Working in a male-dominated industry, the budding Kingaroy apprentice felt she had to 'prove herself' when she first started her full-time apprenticeship in 2016.

"I felt like I had to prove I was 'one of the guys' to do well, which led me to struggle with my femininity at work," she said.

"I realised being a female tradie wasn't a weakness and I could use that difference as strength to bring in a different perspective."

Tarong Power Station's operations manager Dr Lix Beavis took the time to mentor and encourage Ms Baldacchino.

"It gave me the chance to see another woman in a maintenance-based role who has had an amazing career," Ms Baldacchino said.

"It was great to have another female to turn to, who had shared a similar career path, who I could relate to and who could give me some really helpful advice.

"I took control of the things I could control, like the quality of my work, building my skills, and my attitude, and I let those things speak for the type of apprentice I am, not my gender."

Challenging the cultural stigma of being a female apprentice and being accepted as 'part of the team', Ms Baldacchino has been joined by additional female apprentices.

The young woman has now had the opportunity to mentor other female electrical apprentices.

"We now have one female second year and two female first years on site, which is incredible," she said.

She is now working on her Certificate III in Instrumentation and Control, learning how to control the machines and understanding the whole process.

Ms Baldacchino moved from Western Australia to a 250 acre hobby farm in Kingaroy when she was four.

"We grew up being very 'outdoorsy' especially being on a farm with 30 head of cattle," she said.

"I was Dad's shadow growing up and would spend hours hanging around with him in the shed, tinkering away with something."

During school Ms Baldacchino studied metal fabrication and woodwork and was encouraged by her father to apply for work experience at the Tarong Power Station and Meandu Mine.

"I spent one week at Tarong Power Station, working with units and auxiliary teams, then another week at Meandu Mine with electrical trades people," Ms Baldacchino said.

"I got to help with the electrical service of a dragline and replace the electrical brushes, which was an unreal experience."

For her job interview with Stanwell, she decided to make an impression.

"I took a toolbox I had made into my interview," she said.

"I wanted to show the panel what I was capable of and that I enjoyed doing hands-on tasks."

Inclusion and diversity is an important part of shaping Stanwell's culture.

Read more inspiring stories as part of our special 2020 South Burnett International Women's Day feature here

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